Shiite cleric Sadr warns of danger on Iraq by political row

Ten fire lorries arrived to battle the flames

Ten fire lorries arrived to battle the flames

After allegations of fraud during the May 12 elections parliament has passed a resolution for a recount of 11 million votes last week.

The news of the arrests came after Iraqi Interior Minister Qassem al-Araji said there was "no doubt that (the fire) was a deliberate act".

Thick black smoke billowed over central Baghdad as firefighters fought to control the blaze, and some suffered the effects of smoke inhalation.

Though the cause of the fire was not reported, Mr Abadi described it as a "plot to harm the [Iraqi] nation and its democracy".

"We will take all necessary measures and strike with an iron fist all who undermine the security of the nation and its citizens", Abadi said in a statement.

"Election material, including maybe ballot boxes, were burnt, but most of the ballot boxes were stored in another building and have been preserved", Interior Ministry spokesman Gen Saad Maan said on Sunday.

The authorities say the ballot boxes were saved and the blaze, whose cause is now under investigation, will not affect the recount.

Salim al-Jubouri, the outgoing speaker of parliament, who lost his seat in the election, called for an entire re-do of the vote because of the fire.

The bloc of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, which won the most seats in the election, boycotted the vote.

Staff rushed to save ballot boxes from the warehouse
Image Staff rushed to save ballot boxes from the warehouse

Three out of the six buildings were completely burned, which had held ballot boxes as well as electronic devices for vote counting, according to the official.

But the old guard, dumped by Iraqi voters, have clamored for a recount, although experts say it is unlikely to produce a major change in the number of seats won by their rival lists.

The SJC convened on Sunday to name the judges and to meet with officials from the electoral commission to "understand how it works and get a briefing on the nature of complaints it received regarding the 2018 legislative elections", the statement said.

Last month's election saw a record number of abstentions as Iraqis snubbed the corruption-tainted elite who have dominated the country since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. State television said ballot boxes were moved to another location under heavy security.

The election marked the first time Iraqi ballots were counted electronically and not by hand.

The 12 May election threw up some surprises, with Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's anti-establishment coalition of secular groups and leftists coming in first place. Meanwhile, Iraq's Independent Higher Election Commission said all the ballot boxes in the warehouse are safe.

"Nothing is known, but there are people who would not want the votes to be recounted because it would prove their fraud or they could loose even more votes", federal intelligence officer Abo Musa said.

The legislature on Wednesday also sacked the nine-member independent commission that oversaw the polls. Abadi's coalition finished third in the polls, behind shock victor Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric who once referred to the U.S.as "the great serpent".

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